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You may have heard of the Island of St. Helena, as it has a long and interesting history. The island is volcanic and tropical, as it sits in the south Atlantic ocean twenty five hundred miles east of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. St. Helena is well known for being the location where Napoleon was forced into exile. Obviously, if you want to exile a person, then putting them onto an island is a pretty logical way of achieving your goal. However, St. Helena was the perfect island location for Napoleon’s house arrest since the island is one of the most remote islands in the entire world. This is why researchers find the island’s termite populations fascinating; after all, finding termites on a remote island begs the question of how they traveled their. In addition to the peculiar fact that termites inhabit this remote island, the island also has a rich history of termite-induced destruction. In fact, it could be said that aggressive termite species destroyed the infrastructure, private homes and basically the entire island of St. Helena in the past. The damage caused by termite pests on the island was so widespread that nearly every timber-framed structure was completely destroyed. Since St. Helena is home to well over four thousand people, the ruined city needed to be rebuilt. After several years, the collective effort to rebuild the island’s structures succeeded.


Currently, experts believe that termites were brought to the remote island of St. Helena by wooden slave ships around 1840. Many of these ships fell into disrepair, so they were broken down and used as firewood on the island. Unfortunately, this wood had been infested with termites. During the decades following 1840, the island territory’s capital, Jamestown, was ravaged by destructive termites. Nearly all historic buildings of significance were destroyed. In a panic, the government formed the “White Ant Committee” in order to systematically eradicate the termite presence from the entire island. At the time, most people in the world referred to termites as “white ants”. Sadly, the committee failed to fulfill their intended mission, and the termite destruction continued on St. Helena for years. Once the termite population was under proper control, officials had every structure on the island rebuilt with metal materials in order to prevent such termite horrors in the future. When timber is used during construction on the island, builders are required to use a special type of termite-resistant timber.


Do you think that the island of St. Helena contains any native termite species?


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